Story: The Magic Scarf
The Magic Scarf
[Translated by Caubery Mukherjee]
Jhumu the little girl looked very pretty when she wore the white scarf over her pink dress. The white scarf got misplaced when they shifted to their rural home from the city. She searched all her clothes but it wasn’t there. She moved around with a gloomy face. Seeing her so depressed, her mother told her that she would take her to the village market and buy her a beautiful scarf. Jhumu looked at her mom with a tearful eye, as she knew she wouldn’t get a similar, tasseled white scarf. Her mother comforted her by saying you will get adjusted in the new rural environment. She would go to a new school very soon and make new friends.
Next day, they went to a shop. Her mother was admiring some dresses. The shopkeeper said if the little girl was keen, he could show her some scarves. Jhumu was very fussy nothing appealed to her. Suddenly her eye caught a red scarf with beads and sequins embroidered all over. It was indeed very eye catching though a little crushed. Seeing the crushed scarf, her mother inquired,” is it second hand?” The shopkeeper exclaimed, “What Madam! This is the handiwork of an old Muslim tailor. It was ordered by the gentleman who stayed near the bus stand in that garden house. He never came back to collect it. That’s why it is still here. You will never get it at this price in any shop.” Jhumu shouted,” we now stay in that house. ”While her mother was paying the price she heard a whisper ,” please save me’’ Jhumu turned around to see who was whispering. She questioned herself, save him from what? She again heard the whisper,” save me from this bundle, I am choking here. I am a magic scarf I can take you to places anywhere in this world. Ask your mom to buy this red scarf you will never regret.” Jhumu stared in dis belief. Does it really happen as he said? The scarf again whispered, “see I am already three feet high from the floor within seconds I will reach your house. “Seeing this, Jhumu did not wait to argue anymore. She took the scarf, and walked along with her mom towards her home.
Jhumu kept the scarf on the clothes rack. Her father saw it and said,” it is so beautiful! My girl will look like a pretty rose when she will wear it. “After dinner, her parents went off to sleep. Once again she heard the voice.” Common Jhumu lets go somewhere you desire. Your parents are snoring in the other room, now is the time.” Jhumu asked,” are you sure you can take me to places? Okay lets go to the Himalayas I want to see Mount Everest. Only then I will believe you.” “Let’s go, the mountain is called Chomo Yang Mai in Tibet, the Nepalis call it Sagar Matha. Wrap the red magic scarf around your neck. We have to go to an altitude which is 29028 feet high. It is the world’s highest peak. My general knowledge is not that bad. In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered this peak. They went swiftly through the clouds. Jhumu was shivering in the cold. “we are crossing an icy glacier. Soon you will land on the icy peak. Then you will see the beautiful world below and the sun, moon and the stars above. “The Mount Everest was first conquered by two English men George Malory and Andrew Erwin. They were the first to arrive there. Unfortunately, they died in a snow storm. Their bodies couldn’t be found. That’s why their names are not there in the history of the Everest. Jhumu was shivering in the biting cold and asked the magic scarf to take her home. In a short while, Jhumu was back in her cozy bed. Jhumu woke up rubbing her eyes and saw the scarf on her bed. Was it a dream or reality? she asked herself. She saw the snowflakes on her shoes. She hurriedly rubbed them and got ready to go to her new school. Jhumu asked the scarf,” why are you so quiet?” The magic scarf replied it was very tired after the long journey so needed some rest to energize itself. She did not like her classmates. They were not disciplined like the students of the city school. The pupils made faces when she was answering. The first period was Geography. The teacher had an irritable look. She asked if anyone has been to the mountains. Her topic was the Himalayas.” Can anyone tell me who conquered Mount Everest?” Jhumu instantly got up and answered two English men George Malary and Andrew Erwin. The whole class began laughing including the teacher. She asked,” where did you get such absurd names?’’ Jhumu’s face turned red with embarrassment. She could never tell anyone about her visit last night. If she mentioned, the class would call her crazy. Somehow, she managed to attend the other classes after the humiliation and walked back home.
Jhumu walked home angrily. She decided to have a big fight with the magic scarf for giving incorrect information about Mount Everest. They called it absurd. Even her teacher taunted her. The magic scarf said,” the only way to convince the class and her teacher is by showing the tattered flag from the Everest. Her teacher believed that she is beyond any mistake. By showing the flag she could easily convince them. Jhumu checked her father’s encyclopedia and found the two names. There was no conclusive proof that they were the first to conquer Everest. They were buried under the snow but their flag indicated that they had reached the top. That night she again went to the Everest to get the flag. She thought she could prove her point this time. To her shock and dismay, the class refused to believe her. Her teacher called her a crazy girl for bringing the tattered flag to the class. However, her teacher said that she had checked the encyclopedia and found the names of the two mountaineers. But it was not mentioned that they were the first to reach the peak. But there was a possibility. Jhumu heaved a sigh of relief that at least the teacher was convinced.
After visiting the Everest, the magic scarf took Jhumu to Kilimanjaro forest in Africa and from there to South America’s Lake Titicaca. Jhumu next requested the scarf to take her to her city. She wanted to see her old house and her friends. She did not like her rural home. Everything seemed so bleak here and she was missing her dear school friends. The magic scarf agreed and said, within a blink of her eyelid she would be there. From the sky her city looked so magical with the street lights blinking like fairy lights. Alas! She couldn’t meet her friends as they were fast asleep at night. Jhumu was a little disheartened she couldn’t speak to her friends. She didn’t like her friends here as they were unruly. After a week, there was a vacation coming for the festival. School would remain closed. She wondered what would she do alone at home.
Near the mango grove, a friend called Bubu lived there. She wore spectacles and she asked Jhumu,” Why are you wearing a gloomy look.? “Jhumu looked at her sternly. “I have forgotten how to smile.” Bubu said she checked the names in” Wonder of the World “book. She knew Jhumu was correct. She said you even surprised our teacher. Jhumu smiled and said I have also been to the Everest. She however kept the story of the magic scarf a secret. Bubu laughed and said she couldn’t believe this. Jhumu challenged her and said “name anything I will get it for you. Do you want the river water of Zambia? Or a penguin from the Antarctica? “Bubu challenged her to get the deadly Piranha fish from the Amazon river. Bubu told her,” If you
can get it I will believe you more than our famous magician. ”The other school friends laughed at the idea, but Jhumu promised to get the deadly fish.
Jhumu reached home and asked the magic scarf to take her to the Amazon river to catch the Piranha fish. She had accepted the challenge given to her by her friends. The scarf warned Jhumu, to be very careful as Anaconda is also found there. The river is very big, about six thousand miles before it merges with the ocean. It flows through the dense forests and the Red Indians shoot anyone, if they see with their poison arrow ..Jhumu agreed to be alert. She said that she would carry her father’s fishing line and a big glass jar to hold the fish. The magic scarf asked her to carry some chicken pieces to use them as a bait. After dinner Jhumu wore the scarf around her neck and soon she saw the mighty river. The scarf told her to act quickly and throw the chicken pieces into the water. It was not safe to stay. The Amazon river winded its way through the forest and multicolored beautiful birds were flying on either side. Jhumu saw a creature and shrieked in fear. It was awful looking. The scarf told her not to be scared as it was harmless. It is called Armadillo. Jhumu tied the chicken piece to the fishing line and waited. She could not imagine that the fish would get caught so soon. She put it in her glass jar and tightened the lid. They soon reached her house and she was in her bed.
Next morning, she heard her mother yelling “why did Jhumu throw my pickle from the jar and keep that awful looking fish in it? If she wanted to keep fishes as her pet, we could have got her an aquarium. “Jhumu looked at the jar and saw the fish was alive. She took out another piece of chicken and gave it to the fish. It gulped the piece in seconds. Jhumu felt very confident now. She would show the fish to her friends who ridiculed her so much at school. Those who stayed away from her would now extend their hands for friendship. At lunch time, Bubu and the other friends gathered around Jhumu and in a mocking tone asked about the piranha fish. Jhumu took out the jar and showed them the fish. They were dumb struck and totally confused. They said Jhumu must be having a supernatural power or else how could she get the fish. They all came forward, amazement written on their faces. They happily accepted Jhumu as their friend. Jhumu smiled mysteriously.
Jhumu was very happy that her friends accepted her power of doing extraordinary things. Her popularity came instantly. She knew that it was magic scarf behind her outstanding achievement. She rushed home to thank the red magic scarf. Her boundless joy came to a halt, when the magic scarf said,” my job is done. Now you have to get intimate with your friends. I have just broken the ice, now you have to take your friendship forward.” Jhumu was taken aback, she asked,” what are you saying? I can’t take a single step without you.” The scarf reassured her that her friends have all accepted her. There was nothing to fear. She could also ask her friends to come to her garden house to play. Jhumu realized that the red magic scarf indeed would leave her and go to some other place. Pathos gripped her heart. When the sun was setting, and casting long shadows, Jhumu saw that the magic scarf had left her and was gone.
As time went by Jhumu began liking the new environment. She gradually forgot her old school friends. She had made many friends in her new school. Her old memories faded with time. She faintly remembered the faces of her old friends. These days she plays in the green fields with the birds and butterflies that keep flitting about here and there. Her friends play many games like hide and seek, hop scotch, blind man and other enjoyable games. Many friends come to her garden house. Jhumu was their star attraction.
One night, Jhumu heard the same familiar voice. She knew that the magic red scarf had returned. It said, “how are you dear? Are you in deep sleep or engrossed in a fantastic dream?” Jhumu woke up and said,” So nice to see you. You don’t enquire about me anymore. So many days have passed, we have not been to any new place. “The scarf asked,” Would you like to go? I can spread my wings and we can fly to many places. Would you like to see the Nevada desert in California?”
Jhumu was no longer interested in seeing other places in other continents. She told the scarf,” this time I will take you around our countryside. You will be simply amazed to see the lush green fields, the blue summer sky, the grey clouds, the shimmering streams, the rippling river and the colorful birds and butterflies flitting about. I will not go any more. I have fallen in love with the swaying trees, the green paddy fields and the boundless blue sky. The beautiful nature surrounding me, is my new friend now, and I closely hold them to my heart.”